How to Enjoy Life with Bipolar Disorder by Ann Latta Donnan
GUEST Post by Ann Latta Donnan — Photo by Will van Wingerden
It is vital for a bipolar person to have support from family and friends as well as psychiatric care from a physician and therapists.
I was blessed to have a strong belief in God who held my hand through my seven tempest-tossed teenage years until I was correctly diagnosed as Bipolar 1. I had severe mood swings from heaven to hell and back over and over again starting at age twelve. My parents were wonderful and they assured me that they would help me and work with the psychiatrists until I was stable. I had the best of care at UCLA in the Neuropsychiatric Institute, yet, alas, not much was known about manic-depression, as it was called then.
My Mom endured three back operations at the Mayo Clinic and was in bed during my teen years. I cooked dinner for my parents and my three older brothers each night.
“How long do I cook peas?”
“How do I know if the roast is done?”
“Can I make a chocolate cake for dessert?”
I asked her these and many more questions.
Mostly my Mom showered me with love and was there for me as my mood swings became more pronounced. Each year, I became speeded up in September when school started. I joined clubs and sports teams and chattered like a bird to as many girls as I could.
Soon my words made little sense. My appearance changed: I wore mismatched clothing in chartreuse and purple. I became glassy-eyed. My hair and clothing were unkempt. Most of all I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I had to drop out of school each spring when I became depressed and slept up to fifteen hours a day. I felt well in the summer, and I made up my grades in summer school. Each fall I became speeded up again and the cycle repeated itself, growing worse each year.
My parents loved me in every way possible. They spent much time with me and they assured me that they would help me as much as I needed.
I saw many doctors and psychiatrists. Not much was known about the illness then, so they could only give me tranquilizers and wait for the frenzied mood to pass. When it did, I descended into depression that was so deep that I could not eat or sleep.
During my wide-awake nights I talked with God. I told Him my fears and frustration that I was not normal. He listened and seven years later at age nineteen He answered: “Ann, you are a Christian. Your life has a plan. You are doing all the right things. Stay on the path.”
I’m still on that path. My life is a journey with the illness and I plan to stay well and help as many bipolar people and their families as I can.
My parents gave me life and then they helped me through the deepest, darkest chapter of my life. How did they do this? They loved me immensely and they spent much time with me. They assured me that they would find what was invading my life and shaking it to the core. They were my best friends. They prayed with me and encouraged me to pour my heart out to God. From age twelve to nineteen was the longest and most wretched quagmire of my life. Yet, they helped me to have a tenacious grip on reality. I felt like a person in a hurricane who is clinging to a lamppost, being pummeled by gale force winds. My body is parallel to the ground and their faith in me was helping me to hold on. They gave me strength and hope, and thanks to them my symphony is singing inside me. It is a joyful song. Now what could be greater than that?
See ANN’s BOOK below.